(CBS Local)– “Kung Fu” on The CW Network has been getting a ton of buzz recently and one of the biggest reasons why is the brilliant performance of Kheng Hua Tan. The actor plays Mei-Li Shen, the mother of the show’s main character Nicky Shen. Tan’s character Mei Li has many different layers that you see throughout the season and she has to deal with from her daughter’s aspirations to family drama.
CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith recently caught up with Tan and the two discussed why this show resonates with so many people, the uptick in violence against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States and how “Crazy Rich Asians” changed Tan’s career trajectory.READ MORE: Kristin Chenoweth Answer Stuns Steve Harvey On 'Celebrity Family Feud'
“I think it has been wonderful and every time you are starting a new project and you are building something up from the ground, you really have no idea how people will take it,” said Tan. “We knew instinctively on set that we had something special. Our relationships were very, very special, but we had no idea how the audience would take it. When the news came that audiences were embracing us wholeheartedly, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. It also reinforced that everything we were feeling on set must be real.”
Tan has been encouraged that the show’s themes of family, marriage, love and acceptance have universally resonated with all different types of audience members. The native of Singapore realizes this series comes out at a critical time when Asian-American and Pacific Islanders have been experiencing a rise in attacks and hate crimes.
“When you work on any project that surfaces a current issue that is so affecting, like what is happening for example with anti-Asian hate or anti-Asian violence, it makes the work so pungent,” said Tan. “It feels so surreal to receive your script and then we have this big Zoom meeting and we are reading the script and the script involves a scene where an older person is being beat up. At the same time, you are reading news daily that is happening outside your door, and exactly the same thing is happening.”READ MORE: Ezra Miller, 'The Flash' Star, Seeking Treatment For Mental Health Issues
“The feeling makes you want to use this platform and honor this platform in the best way that you know how,” said Tan. “I think it is so lovely that Kung Fu not only presents these scenarios, but the lens with which they present the scenario comes from many different characters and many different characters are dealing with it in there own way. I love that. For example with the Mei Li character, she is older and comes from a different place. Her entry point is completely different from her daughter.”
While “Kung Fu” has been a great experience for Tan so far, the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” put the actor on a whole different stratosphere. The movie made over $200 million at the box office and success and bigger parts came for Tan as a result.
“The wildest part of that story and everything I’ve been going through the last three years is just that element of surprise, said Tan. “You never know what is around the corner. Just keep your heart open and your mind healthy. Keep good people around you and keep calm. Be brave, but not reckless. That sort of being really allows you to accept whatever is around the corner.”MORE NEWS: Academy Apologizes To Sacheen Littlefeather
Watch “Kung Fu” Wednesday nights at 8pm EST/PST on The CW Network.